The Role of Guns & Armed Extremism in the Attack on the U.S Capitol

Jan 28, 2021
  • Description

In 2020, white supremacists and anti-government extremists, including the ascendant boogaloo movement, used guns as tools of intimidation and violence in increasingly open ways, including taking advantage of weak state gun laws to brandish weapons at anti-government protests, to intimidate peaceful protests for racial justice, and in plans and actions to kill. An analysis of data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) at Princeton University shows at least 100 instances of armed protesters and incidents involving guns at protests in state capitals from May 2020 through mid-January 2021. These events were precursors to the attack on the U.S. Capitol and foreshadow a possible violent escalation in the future. This report reviews the presence of firearms at the Capitol insurrection, the constellation of extreme right actors present at the Capitol, these same groups' presence at armed protests throughout 2020, the gun lobby's complicity in the rise of armed extremism, and policy solutions for disrupting how extremists use firearms to undercut democracy.